Hair, History, and Healthcare: The Significance of Black Hairstyles for Dermatologists

What is the history of Black hair?

Throughout history, Black hair has held profound cultural significance. Styles like cornrows, locs, and afros served as powerful expressions of identity. However, their evolution has been influenced by Eurocentrism and White supremacy. The pressure to conform to Eurocentric standards of beauty, often involving straightened hair, has marginalized traditional Black hairstyles as less “conventional or “professional.”

During the Civil Rights Movement, the afro emerged as a symbol of Black resistance against oppression. Today, personal hairstyle choices are influenced by variuous factors, yet hair discrimination remains a pervasive issue impacting Black individuals, leading to consequences such as job loss and social stigma, impacting both mental and physical well-being1.

The CROWN Act, enacted in 2019 and now adopted by 23 states, aims to combat race-based hair discrimination, particularly targeting hairstyles such as braids, locs, and twists2.


Why is it crucial for dermatologists to understand this history?

Chemical relaxers and high-tension hairstyles, such as braids or weaves, can contribute to dermatologic conditions like traction alopecia and CCCA, which disproportionately affect Black women. Despite these risks, societal norms often favor straight hair, limiting options for Black women3.

For dermatologists, understanding the historical, cultural, and social significance of Black hairstyles is essential to reduce implicit biases. Without this understanding, there is a risk of unfairly judging patients based on their hairstyle choices. Recognizing and respecting patients’ hairstyle preferences can foster trust, improve cultural competence, and improve treatment adherence3.



  1. Blackshear TB, Kilmon K. Natural Hair: a Vital Component to Black Women’s Health. J Racial Ethn Health Disparities. 2021;8(6):1573-1582. doi:10.1007/s40615-020-00922-4
  2. The Official CROWN Act. 2020. Accessed March 10, 2024. Retrieved at
  3. What Every Dermatologist Must Know About the History of Black Hair. Practical Dermatology. November 2023. Accessed March 10, 2024. Retrieved at

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